March 29, 2017

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Interview: Sean T. Collins Talks Mirror Mirror II, 2D Cloud and their Kickstarter

We here at Panel Patter are big fans of 2D Cloud, one of the small comics publishers who consistently put out great content, featuring creators such as Marinaomi, Will Dinski, Andy Burkholder, Jason T. Miles, Noah Van Sciver, and many more. They're a publisher willing to take risks, and part of that means understanding there may not be a wide audience for their books--but those who enjoy comics that often challenge a reader's perceptions always find rewarding material under the 2D Cloud banner.

Recently, 2D Cloud has been moving to a Kickstarter model for pre-orders. This ensures that they have the demand and funding for upcoming books. It's something we're seeing a lot more in the comics world--those of us who want what the direct market won't provide can go directly to our favorite sources via funding drives.

The key, though is hitting that funding goal, and that's where 2D Cloud still needs a little help, as their latest Kickstarter campaign winds down towards the end of this month. The headliner this time out is Mirror Mirror II, the second 2D Cloud horror anthology. I had the pleasure to sit down with Sean T. Collins, co-editor of the anthology with his fiance, Julia Gfrörer, via e-mail to talk a little about Mirror Mirror II, 2D Cloud, and the nature of horror.

Mirror Mirror II cover by Julia Gfrörer
Rob McMonigal: Thanks for agreeing to this interview on short notice, Sean! I remember reading your old comic, Destructor, way back when! Let's start off with the basics--what is the Mirror Mirror anthology series and how did it come about?


Sean T. Collins: Mirror Mirror is the brainchild of our publisher 2dcloud. It's a really innovative idea, I think: a flagship anthology in which no two volumes are a like because each volume has a different guest editor (or editors in our case). The first volume came out last year courtesy of editor and cartoonist Blaise Larmee, who's now 2dcloud's creative director. It was a really bold book, loose and abstract, kinda simultaneously pushing at the boundaries of comics and "the self" as a concept. 

But when Julia Gfrörer, my co-editor and fiancée, and I set out to do our volume, we knew it would be very different—denser markmaking, a greater focus on narrative, more explicit and dark in tone, and as black as Blaise's volume was white, just on the level of the cover and even the trim of the pages. If you put the two books together they look as different as day and night but, I think, they fit together and follow one another as naturally as day and night, too.

from Bad Blood by Al Columbia

Rob:  There are so many awesome horror comics. It's one of my favorite genres, too. What makes comics such a great art form for horror?

Sean:  That's a tough question for me, because a lot of what people think of when they think of "horror comics" don't move or frighten me at all. Mirror Mirror II is basically a who's who of the artists who have scared us--Al Columbia, Uno Moralez, Renee French, Josh Simmons, and Julia too. Have you ever watched a horror movie, gotten to a really intensely scary part, and then been unable to resist rewinding and watching again? I definitely have, and I think the best horror comics make that compulsive instinct to face what frightens and disgusts us easy to give in to. You control the speed at which you pass through the images, so when something really sinks its claws into you, it's entirely up to you how fast you pull those claws back out by turning the page. 
from Love by Laura Lannes

Rob:  How did you and Julia go about selecting content for Mirror Mirror?

Sean:  I've joked that it helped that we went to a bar across the street to do it. After a drink or two, "Let's invite Clive Barker" seems less and less like a pipe dream, you know? I'm kidding, but only slightly -- from our initial barside conversation about who we wanted, we decided to shoot for the moon. What's the worst that could happen? They say no and we politely thank them for their consideration and move on. 

So our list was a combination of groups, I'd say. There were major artists from other fields, like Barker and fine artist Chloe Piene, whose work meant a lot to us. There were cartoonists who we consider part of our canon and heritage -- Columbia, French, Dame Darcy, Carol Swain, folks like that. There were artists who are more comics-adjacent than comics proper and whose work and audiences we wanted to mix up with a more traditional alternative-comics readership, like Meaghan Garvey and Heather Benjamin. There were comics artists we consider peers or friends or fellow travelers--Noel Freibert, Aidan Koch, Sean Christensen, Céline Loup, Lala Albert, Jonny Negron, Simon Hanselmann, Laura Lannes, Josh Simmons. There were quite a few people we discovered online and invited cold, from younger artists like Mou and Apolo Cacho and Trungles to Nicole Claveloux, a French comics legend going back several decades. 

We thought that as different as, say, Clive Barker and Aidan Koch or Chloe Piene and Josh Simmons might be, if you put them together in the right context, the commonalities would emerge. Our only guidance for the creators was that we wanted work based around four themes: horror, pornography, the Gothic, and the abject. They all knew exactly what we meant, which really is why we asked them in the first place. 

from Shifts by Trungles

Rob:  Who among your contributors to Mirror Mirror might be a reader's new favorite creator? 

Sean:  I'll use the first example that comes to mind because it's the first full-length comic in the collection: Laura Lannes's "Love" is going to to hit people hard. She has a style of tremendous restraint and control, so when things go bad, you feel it. 

Rob:  What is it like to work with 2d cloud?

Sean:  They're a dream. I say this all the time, but Raighne Hogan, the co-publisher and our main point-person on the project, is just so thoughtful and deliberate about everything he does -- who he works with, how he treats them, what comics he publishes and why. Throughout the whole process Raighne was encouraging and supportive. Given that a lot of the work in the anthology is challenging, even upsetting, having his humane conscience sign off on what we were doing meant a lot.

Rob:  Why are small pubs like 2d cloud important to the comics world?

Sean:  2dcloud takes real risks on resolutely uncommercial work -- not only that, but they built their kickstarter business model to accommodate their artists, rather than doing it the other way around and only publishing artists who make sound business sense. I pretty firmly believe that the future of both the arts and politics depends on expanding our capability to imagine new ways things can be done, and 2dcloud fits that bill to a tee.

Rob: Thanks again for taking the time to do this, Sean. Last question--what's next for you and Julia?

Sean: Well, I can tell you what's on Julia's drawing board at the moment: She just finished the sequel to her first major work, Flesh and Bone; it continues the story of the witch at the center of that comic and I'm excited for people to see it. She's also working on a t-shirt design for the band Wax Idols, who rule. Together, she and I are doing the third in our series of pornographic adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe short stories -- this one will be based on "The Masque of the Red Death" and I'd say it's sort of epic compared to the intimacy of the books we did based on "The Cask of Amontillado," which was In Pace Requiescat, and "The Fall of the House of Usher," which was The Hideous Dropping Off of the Veil. For my part, I mostly work as a television critic these days, and this spring will be a very very busy season. It's probably no surprise that the Twin Peaks revival is the show I'm most looking forward to. 

Rob: Okay, back to my comments now!

In addition to Mirror Mirror II, the Spring 2017 Kickstarter has 4 other parts: Yours by Sarah Ferrick, Sound of Snow Falling by Maggie Umber, 100 by Nou, and Alt Comics Magazine 5. I admit to being unfamiliar with these creators, but looking at some of the preview pages, I'm pretty excited:

100 by Nou

from 100 by Nou
Sound of Snow Falling by Maggie Umber

from Sound of Snow Falling by Maggie Umber

Yours by Sarah Ferrick
from Yours by Sarah Ferrick
Alt Comics 5


There are a ton more of these pics on the Kickstarter page, too, for you to get a feel for the work.

As I write this, the Kickstarter is just a little shy of making it. Let's put it over the top. You can get everything from digital copies to print to past books by 2D Cloud, and even a full 1-year subscription to all of the books coming out this year by 2D Cloud. Again, I trust Raighne and his pals to provide me with excellent books, and I urge you to check out this Kickstarter today!